I’d looked into Charlotte Mason styled homeschooling and had rejected it.
The idea of it was appealing, but the methods seemed foreign and insufficient to truly educate a child.
Well, now I’m singing a different tune and can’t get enough of the brilliance that is Mason’s philosophy of education. What changed? I finally understood the WHY behind her methods, the heartbeat of her purpose.
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I can’t emphasize enough, if you only use Charlotte Mason’s methods without understanding her philosophy, you will be robbing your child of the lifeblood of education. The game changing book for me was Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass
Here are four things I thought about CM education that turned out to be wrong:
It’s Not Comprehensive and Has No Structure
I knew that Mason advocated getting rid of dry, boring textbooks that just regurgitate facts and replacing them with “living books”. I thought that only one singular book would be the launching point for all the subjects. You’d read a chapter and spend the rest of the day free exploring the concepts in the story.
Take for example, the classic book “Little House on the Prairie“. I thought that from that book, kids would explore the geography of the Midwest, the history of the pioneers and native Americans, the science behind water well digging, the math behind packing for a covered wagon journey, and so on.
While it’s true that you can learn all those things from these rich books (and that’s the major benefit to using them), Charlotte Mason’s students actually read from many many books during the course of the day and each book was specifically geared towards a subject.
With geography, we’re currently reading Paddle-to-the-Sea about a toy boat that travels the great lakes and the St. Lawrence river on his way to the Atlantic. For science we’re reading The Burgess Bird Book for Children about the famous Peter Rabbit and his bird friends in the Old Orchard. This books are so engaging in their story lines and beautiful in their prose. But they are purposefully picked out so that each subject is covered.
In fact, the more I’ve dug into CM educating, the more I realize how very many subjects are covered. My son is only six but we cover Bible, Geography, Fairy Tales, Shakespeare, Natural History, Literature (oh so much literature), Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, Math, Phonics, Science, Handwriting, Speech, Foreign Language, Hymn Study, Folk Music, Poetry, Memorization, Handicrafts, Church History, Nature Studies, American History and more, mostly before noon! (Find out how we manage that in an upcoming post!)
It’s Child Led
I thought that Charlotte Mason was basically unschooling, allowing a child to be the only driving force behind what subjects are covered.
Instead, Mason used the analogy of spreading a feast before the children full of wonderful, nutritious and delicious food.
It keeps us from the two extremes. Some have an extra lax attitude of letting a child fend for themselves when it comes to eating/learning (we parents know how most kids will gravitate toward junk food, same goes with books and areas of study).
Then you have the ultra controlling educator who doesn’t trust a child’s ability to handle good food (and ideas). Instead the teacher puts themselves between the child and the feast, chewing it up themselves and regurgitating it back out for the child. Gross, I know, but I think it makes the point.
Mason wanted children to come in direct contact with real life, living ideas, nature, and the God behind it all. And as an educator, it’s our job to set that “table” with the finest food.
It’s Too Perfect
This last myth will reveal what a cynic I am.
Even after reading all about Charlotte Mason and feeling my heart ache for this philosophy to be my family’s way of life, I came this close to dismissing it entirely.
I thought it was a pipe dream. My boys are not sweet little girls that sit at their desks with folded hands. I’m not the homeschooling mom that plans ahead or has a healthy dinner ready every night.
We’re nuts! The noise is deafening, the mess is suffocating and my patience is shameful.
But you know what, Charlotte Mason fits our family perfectly!
- The lessons are mercifully short (we’re talking less than 10 minutes each). That helps us ALL pay attention and focus because things are always changing and moving.
- There’s no lectures for me to prep. I gather our books for the day, double check what chapter we’re on, and we’re off to the races!
- There’s no pressure to meet certain standards or pass certain tests. Instead, a child is invited to “narrate” whatever they remember from a passage, letting them relate to it on their own terms while growing in language skills. (Pretty sure I’ll be writing a future post about my love affair with narration and how it actually works WAY better than tests and assignments!)
All of us are excited to learn and grow and make connections. We’re growing as people and we’re growing as a family.
And I’m so dang glad I didn’t reject a Charlotte Mason education forever.
Looking for to explore this topic some more? I highly recommend these books if you’re interested in homeschooling.